Warning: Hand sanitizers may burst info flame and incinerate your skin

Friday, February 22, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: hand sanitizers, combustion, burns

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(NaturalNews) Are you a germophobe who likes to bathe in alcohol-based hand sanitizer? Well, you may want to rethink your hygiene habits in the future or, at a minimum, stay away from static sources if you're hooked on the Purell.

11-year-old Ireland Lane ran screaming from her hospital room at Doernbecher Children's Hospital recently with the front of her t-shirt on fire, The Oregonian newspaper reported. Now, she is facing several skin grafts and other forms of burn treatment before she can go home to Klamath Falls, as state investigators try to figure out exactly what happened.

Their initial impression? That she burst into flames after static electricity ignited flammable hand sanitizer.

Lane, who has already survived cancer, was a patient at Doernbecher after hitting her head at school and losing consciousness.

"She still has bad dreams," said her father, Stephen Lane, "but she doesn't recall the actual incident, which from my perspective is very good."


Hand sanitizer is commonplace all over the country, especially in hospitals, schools, doctor's offices and day care centers. Health experts say their widespread usage helps curb cold and flu viruses and can eliminate bacteria.

But in some instances, the alcohol-based formula can be dangerous.

"The Oregon State Fire Marshal continues its investigation of the rare hospital fire" involving Ireland, the paper reported, "but early indications are that its origin lies in a very unlikely combination of factors that could nevertheless happen to anybody."

Stephen Lane, a 34-year-old disabled Navy veteran, said he was staying in his daughter's room overnight and was sleeping but was awakened abruptly when she rushed out of the room. He caught her quickly outside in the hallway and smothered the flames with his own body.

Ireland was taken to the intensive care unit and later transferred to the Legacy Oregon Burn Center, where she was diagnosed with third-degree burns from just above her belly button to her chin. Also, parts of her arms and the bottoms of her earlobes were burned, as well as some of her hair.

No one besides Ireland saw the fire start. Investigators' initial exam of the incident found no clear cause. But Stephen Lane says investigators told him an alcohol-based hand sanitizer from a wall-mounted dispenser is the only thing that makes the most sense.

Ireland, who just turned 12 recently, was supposed to leave the hospital the day of the fire. She said the last thing she remembers that day is using the sanitizer to clean a table that rolled over her bed, where she had painted a wooden box as a gift to the nurses who had been taking care of her. Her father says he remembers that she was playing before the fire, making static electricity with her bed sheets.

It's happened before

And while he says he's never heard of that being a danger, similar incidents have happened before. In Kentucky in 2002, doctors reported that a nurse's hand sanitizer ignited from a static electricity spark. In 1998, a patient in Arizona suffered serious injuries in an operating room fire where an alcohol-based sanitizer was involved.

Makers of alcohol-free sanitizers advertise their products over those containing alcohol for just that reason: They are a fire risk. But hospitals will typically use the latter because they are recommended as better products by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ireland's prognosis is good, but her father wants people to know of the risks involving alcohol-based sanitizer. "As readily available as hand sanitizer is nowadays, and how everybody sends it to school with their kids, it makes me much more worried," he told the paper.

Ireland's second skin graft operation was on her birthday.




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